If you are ever arrested and charged with a crime, at some point, one of the experiences you will have as a standard part of the arrest procedure is that your fingerprints will be taken. This is a matter of archiving and criminal record, and in the event that you are actually convicted of a crime, it is important to have a fingerprint record available to aid investigations and other matters of law enforcement.
But if you are convicted, serve out your sentence, and reform or you go to court and you are found not guilty, or other circumstances dictate that the charges will be withdrawn and no further prosecution is necessary, what happens then? Will your fingerprints remain on the police record, and if so, how will that affect you? What can you do about it?
Records & Convictions
Generally speaking, once your fingerprints have been taken during an arrest, they are going to remain in police records for all time without some kind of extra action. This is true whether you are convicted of a crime, found not guilty, or have the charges stayed or withdrawn in court. It’s especially true if you are convicted and serve your time, to return to a normal life after that sentence has been served.
The record of your arrest and fingerprints will remain a permanent part of your criminal record, even if you weren’t actually convicted of anything. This is something that can appear on a background check for employment and will require anyone conducting a check to order an RCMP report to see that no conviction is present, only an arrest. While a close reading of your actual record will easily yield the truth, there may be some confusion and inconvenience at times.
This is especially true in the area of US Customs & Border Patrol inspections and checks, where, once a “red flag” comes up on their system, it is automatically downloaded and stored on CBP records, regardless of what happens in the future on Canadian records.
While the record of your fingerprints may exist in a police database forever, that doesn’t mean they have to. Your fingerprints are simply a matter of public record, conviction or not, and it’s just easier to keep them in the system than it is to systematically delete them from the records. That doesn’t mean that fingerprint record destruction doesn’t happen, only that it requires extra effort on the part of the police to do so.
However, you can, under certain circumstances, take the actions that compel the police to destroy those records if you wish. If you were found not guilty, if the charges were withdrawn, or if you obtained a peace bond or a discharge, whether absolute or conditional, you may qualify for having your fingerprints destroyed or expunged from police records. However, you have to take action to do this, this is not an automatic process that takes place just because there is no conviction.
Record Suspensions Count Too
If you have been convicted, but have served your sentence and have reformed and are reintegrating with society, then if you qualify for a Record Suspension, this also includes your fingerprint records. Of course, all of this is contingent upon whether your record suspension meets the criteria required.
For example, people that have been convicted of a sex crime that involve children, still appear on certain background checks for work in areas deemed “vulnerable sectors” such as jobs involving children or the elderly.
However, for offences that are not so specific, getting the right guidance on the proper protocol for fingerprint destruction can lead to positive, substantial results. It’s important to remember that while you can take action to request the destruction of fingerprint records, this does not mean that the police are necessarily obligated to honour that request, and they still retain the right to refuse such requests. You, however, also have the right to seek alternatives, including additional legal guidance from lawyers if it is important to get such records struck.
In the end, it is possible in many cases to remove your fingerprint records from the police archives, provided you meet the requirements. Pardons Canada can help with the entire process and help you save time, money and the stress of dealing with all the bureaucracy involved.